Are Members in Your Safety Plan?

FORT WORTH, Texas—Lineman safety is paramount, but how much emphasis does your electric cooperative put on keeping members safe?

“It’s great that utilities got involved when the Pokémon game came out and people were potentially doing dangerous things. You had a lot of utilities step up and say, ‘We need to do something about this to warn people,’” said Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council.

“But the problem is a lot of utilities don’t regularly reach out to the public—to the members—to make them aware of electrical safety.”

While the Pokémon Go game showed that people had to be reminded how dangerous substations are, Hall said it’s unfair to assume people understand even the basics.

“You and I all know why birds can land on a wire and fly away safely, but people see that and don’t know, and say ‘That’s not dangerous.’ That’s why it’s really important that we include them, as well as all co-op employees, in our culture of safety,” Hall told a Nov. 18 session of NRECA’s Safety Leadership Summit at the Radisson Worthington.

Educated employees and members can be “ambassadors to your communities,” helping to keep others safe.

“They’re the ones who could see a neighbor doing something dangerous on their roof near their service connection and say, ‘Joe, that’s not safe.’ Or see someone starting to trim a tree near power lines and say, ‘No, you need to leave that to professionals.’”

Hall also noted that “study after study shows that when we show concern for people’s safety and well-being, it builds credibility. They are more loyal. It also enhances your reputation with your local leaders.”

And there are more reasons to include members in your culture of safety.

“Anyone that has an incident with electricity risks having life-changing injuries,” said Hall. She noted that in the last five years, Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange reports 517 public electrical contacts in the co-op world alone.

“The defense costs are going to average around $200,000 but they could run as high as $1 million,” said Hall. “And you’ve got settlements in the millions of dollars,” which will lead to higher insurance premiums.

“You also have non-monetary consequences that are far-reaching,” said Hall. “This is hard on everybody at the cooperative.”

Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer at NRECA.